Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

For tPTSD 2he next two blogs I want to talk about Posttraumatic Stress Disorder because I want to tackle something that is in the news a lot and affects a lot of people. When you hear PTSD more likely than not you will think of the soldiers coming back from the Middle East. While PTSD came to general awareness because of soldiers it can affect anyone. In fact PTSD can occur whenever any person regardless of gender, age, race, etc because it is defined by Mayo Clinic as “mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event – either by experiencing it or witnessing it.”

Due to the nature of PTSD occurring from uncontrollable events it is impossible to prevent. As expressed above war is one of the most common causes but outside of active combat there are many other causes. Some examples that Psych Central list include “kidnapping, serious accidents such as car or train wrecks, natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes, violent attacks such as a mugging, rape, or torture, or being held captive.” The common factor in PTSD triggers is that it normally is caused by something/someone threatening a person’s life or an others life.

A practical example of this happening on a large scale is the 9/11 attacks. Many people in New York and Washington, D.C. did and are suffering from PTSD. According to the New York Times, “one measure of the psychological impact of 9/11 is this: At least 10,000 firefighters, police officers and civilians exposed to the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center have been found to have post-traumatic stress disorder.” This example shows how people actively involved, onlookers, and people who had loved ones in the situation were affected.

Unfortunately because PTSD affects people’s emotions it can manifest itself differently in everyone but there are common symptoms. These symptoms are categorized into four groups: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, or changes in emotional reactions.

  • Intrusive memories symptoms:
    • Unwanted reoccurring memories that cause stress.
    • Flashbacks
    • Upsetting dreams
    • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event
  • Avoidance:
    • Avoiding talking, and thinking about the event as well as avoiding places, activities, and people that remind you of the event.
  • Negative changes in thinking and mood:
    • Negative feelings about yourself or other people
    • Hopelessness about the future
    • Memory problems, including not remembering important aspects of the traumatic event
    • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
  • Changes in emotional reactions:
    • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behavior
    • Always being on guard for danger
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Being easily startled or frightened

While these are common symptoms it is important to remember that these are not the only ones one may experience if they have PTSD. Feeling distraught or confused after a traumatic situation is normal. However, make sure to reach out for help if you or a loved one has symptoms for more than a month or if suicidal thoughts are present.

As much as PTSD can be hard to live with there have been successful advancements in the treatment for it. There are two main forms of treatment – psychotherapy and medications. Psychotherapy is common for almost any person suffering from PTSD. These are commonly carried out through cognitive-behavioral therapy or group therapy. As for medications, they are normally taken with psychotherapy. While they do not take away PTSD they can help alleviate symptoms so one can learn to manage and fight PTSD.

While there is no clear cut solution to PTSD it is possible to find ways to beat it. With the help from professionals, friends, and family it can be overcome. The first step is to not be afraid to talk about it. The stigmas and a pride can make it hard but it is the first step. With education and open dialogue we can conquer PTSD.

~Be mindful of the mind


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